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  • Writer's pictureDr. Susanna La

Making Meaningful Choices

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Do you make choices out of habit, which may not be the best for you? Do you engage in helping or hurting (e.g., self-sabotaging) behaviors?

The Choice Point

Each day, we make many choices in life. Some choices we make out of familiarity and/or comfort, but it may not be in our best interest. Dr. Russ Harris introduced "a simple but powerful tool" from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) known as "The Choice Point." The Choice Point helps us to have an increased awareness of the decisions we make and whether our choices get us towards or away from the meaningful life we want.

Away and Towards Moves

Away moves are self-sabotaging patterns we engage in that causes us more suffering, problems, and a poorer quality of life. Some examples of self-sabotaging behaviors include: not taking care of ourselves, self-isolation, ignoring our emotions, self-medicating, procrastination, staying in toxic relationships, people pleasing, and overworking ourselves.

At times, we recognize when we are making unhelpful decisions, but sometimes we don’t even realize when we make away moves. To know if we are engaging in away moves, we can start to consider if our behavior is consistent with the kind of person we are/want-to-be, if our behaviors are effective or not, or if we are living the life we want.

Towards moves are the things we do that get us closer to our ideal life/self. When things are going well, it’s much easier to make towards moves. However, when we are experiencing a recent or chronic stressor(s), a depressive episode, elevated anxiety, a relapse, etc., it is much more difficult to make healthy choices.

How to Make Towards Moves

Take some time to reflect on your life choices. If there are any changes you want to make, feel free to start with some suggestions below to live a more meaningful life that is authentic to you:

  • You can start by identifying your values.

    • Values give our life purpose and direction on what we want to spend our time focusing on. Values can usually be expressed in 1-2 words like connection, growth, and/or fulfillment. You can learn more about values here.

  • After determining your values, you can set some reasonable goals by taking specific actions.

    • We are more likely to accomplish realistic goals. If a goal seems overwhelming, we may need to simplify it into smaller steps. Small changes add up to significant shifts over time.

  • Practice opening up to your emotions in a more mindful and compassionate way.

    • When we can cope more effectively with our emotions and take care of our emotional/psychological well-being, we are less likely to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors. You can read more about mindfulness by clicking here and self-compassion here.

    • Additionally, all our emotions serve a function and urge. Does acting on certain emotions get you closer and further from the version of you/life you want? If you are interested in learning more about function/urge of emotions, click here.

  • Consider the towards behaviors you are already doing or want to start doing.

    • How can you implement more of these actions in your life?

Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) is about the ACTions we take, which is especially important to consider when we are suffering. Imagine a fork in the road in your life journey. Are you taking the path that gets you closer to the life you want or are you taking the path that gets you further away? The Choice Point helps us to be mindful of our towards and/or away moves that guides the direction of our life.

While we may wait for motivation to come before making meaningful change(s), remember motivation follows action.

If you are interested in making changes towards the life you want, feel free to contact us by clicking here.

Stay tuned. Our next topic is “Small Steps to a More Self-Compassionate You.”


Written by Susanna La, Ph.D.

Edited by Elena Duong, Psy.D.

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